For Decades, This Radio Station Named the Dead. Few Still Listen.

For Decades, This Radio Station Named the Dead. Few Still Listen.

For Decades, This Radio Station Named the Dead. Few Still Listen.

For Decades, This Radio Station Named the Dead. Few Still Listen.

“I was lying down here,” he began, describing a late night in 1979 when one Communist-backed president was killed and another took over, decrying his assassinated predecessor as “the child of American imperialism.”

A party official came and instructed Mr. Zaki to get behind the mic. “Announce that ‘the second round of the people’s democratic national revolution has succeeded,’” Mr. Zaki said, putting on his broadcast voice as he recalled the wording.

In the 1990s, he was here when the guerrilla factions came to power after the collapse of the Soviet-backed government and immediately started fighting each other. Some days, as many as 20 mortar shells landed at the station’s compound or nearby. One evening, one faction dragged him from the radio studio and put him in front of the TV cameras — they couldn’t find one of the usual anchors to read the 8 o’clock news.

“Whoever took control of this radio, they had the government — this is how important this radio was,” said Mr. Zaki, now 62.

And through all those years, people brought their death notices.

In the preparations after death, one of the first things families would do was task a literate member to draw up an announcement and pedal it to the station’s little window.

The format was always the same: listing all the male relatives, from closest relation to furthest, and — as if building suspense — ending the announcement with the name of the dead and the time and place of burial and memorial. But if the deceased was a woman, she did not get the dignity of her name — she was always the wife of so and so, the mother of so and so.

The ads were an indication of status, too — the longer your announcement, the bigger your tribe. One ad had 125 names among the cousins alone, said Mr. Aziz, the clerk.


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